Report from the Vineyard Manager Duncan McNeill
A later start to the 2015 harvest meant that the vineyard could fully benefit from the early autumn sun and indeed picking is taking place well into November for the second consecutive year. The cooler and wetter than average weather of August and September has been replaced by temperate and unseasonably warm dry days, which has produced conditions optimum for fruit ripening and very low pressure from bunch rot infections
Bacchus volume was up by 20% on 2014, the quality is excellent and full of perfect green citrus flavours so distinctive to this classic dry aromatic English still white wine. The Bacchus vines which were planted in 2013 produced their first grapes this vintage. A small crop of 2000 kg (enough for 1800 bottles) was taken, the fruit possessing the delightful delicate flavours so often associated with grapes from young vines. Yields were kept intentionally low, so as to allow the vines to mature fully before yielding fruit to their full capacity in 2 – 3 years time.
Ortega was harvested in two stages. The first pick was for the production of the full, rounded white wines that are produced from Ortega in the UK. The second pick was for our signature dessert style wine. The combination of misty mornings followed by clear dry days allow the botrytis fungi to infect the Ortega berries with mould, but then dry out to create raisin like berries with highly concentrated natural sugars and intense flavour. Such weather conditions that are necessary for this type of mould to form in the crop, do not prevail every season – but this is the second year in succession that the Denbies team have been able to produce a dessert wine.
Reichenteiner was picked last week followed by the Pinot Noir (for still rose’ wine), again both increased volume on 2014 and excellent quality. The Pinot Noir which we are using to make our English Sparkling wines is still hanging on the vine, whilst we wait for the optimum quality levels to be achieved.
The Solaris that was planted in 2013 also produced a first crop this year. The variety is the earliest ripening in the vineyard and produces a delicious fruit that has also has the potential to produce a noble harvest dessert wine in the coming years.
The Chardonnay grapes are also still hanging on the vines, ripening further in the autumn sun. Sugars in the fruit will only increase a little further now. Levels of acidity in the berries will still change markedly, with a significant drop off in the harsher malic acids (that which is present in under ripe apples) whilst the milder tartaric acids lend much needed balance to the sweetness of the natural sugar levels. Also during this time, whilst sugars rise and acids fall away, the natural flavours in the berries are developing further. This is why it is so important for the winemaker to taste the fruit, rather than rely alone on analysis of sugar levels, when deciding exactly when to harvest the grapes. There is so much science involved in the production of grapes and wine these days, but a winemaker should not forget the importance of his / her tastebuds (and a little bit of instinct) as a vital tool in deciding when is the perfect time to harvest the crop.